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Sixth-graders now required to get pertussis vaccine

Published 11:02am Thursday, July 11, 2013

Due to an increase in pertussis, or whooping cough, cases in the past decade, incoming sixth graders will be required to receive the vaccine before beginning school this year.

Pertussis is a bacterial infection of the lungs that is spread from person to person through coughs or sneezes. A total of 205 cases were reported across the state in 2010, 133 cases in 2011 and 212 cases in 2012.

According to a release from the Alabama Department of Public Health, all students 11 years of age and older will be required to have the tetanus-diptheria-acelluar pertussis (Tdap) vaccine in order to begin sixth grade for the 2013-14 year in an effort to prevent the spread of the disease.

Students entering the seventh, eighth and ninth grades for the 2012-13 school year will also be required to have the vaccination.

The decision to require the vaccination comes after review statistics that show school-age children are one of the demographics hardest hit by pertussis.

“Of the 212 reported cases of pertussis in 2012, school-aged children represented 33 percent of the cases,” said Dr. Mary McIntyre, assistant state health officer for disease control and prevention. “The sixth through ninth grade requirement for students age 11 or older will protect students from pertussis at the adolescent age in school and through the remainder of their school experience.”

The Tdap school requirement will go up by one higher grade each school year. This means Tdap is required for students entering sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth grades in 2013-2014, sixth through 10th grades in 2014-2015, and up through 12th grade in 2016-2017.